Garden.True.North is about gardening in Zone 3,
sharing thoughts, ideas and tips for all northern gardeners.
sharing thoughts, ideas and tips for all northern gardeners.
Spring started this week which gets gardeners excited like kids anticipating Christmas. Except it is still way too early to start gardening. Even starting seeds is at most about 6 weeks before planting and we usually can not plant until late May.
I’ve always thought the astrological seasons were off kilter; even meteorological seasons are too early for those in Zone 3. Yesterday we received about an inch of snow which is now melting on top of the foot of snowpack left from our winter that started before Thanksgiving (i.e. “fall”).
What can a gardener rely on to determine the proper planting time?
Update: Programs in April - May, 2020 have been cancelled.
Garden catalogs can only provide so much inspiration. Plan to come to local events to connect with fellow gardeners while learning more about gardening. Scheduling is underway and these early dates are confirmed.
A few weeks ago, I received a gift from a neighbor of a bonsai plant that she passed along from her brother's collection. I looked over the seven she had, and picked one that I found out later is a Ficus benjamina. Good choice because it is considered one of the best for a novice. It was like taking home a puppy – love the cute little guy -- but don’t know the first thing about how to take care of it.
Above: Ficus benjaminia that is now mine!
This year I managed to bring my Rosemary plant in before it succumbed to the elements and it is now thriving. When I’m feeling the need for the fresh smell of plants, Rosemary is there and just brushing my hand across the leaves produces that wonderful fragrance.
This summer the entire nursery pot was put into the container with other herbs. When it came time to bring it inside, I just popped the pot out and brought it in. Rosemary doesn’t like its roots disturbed. By keeping it in the same pot on the move from outside to inside, those roots remained happy. I also cut back the tops by one-third before bringing it inside. Now it is adding new growth.
This fall we took a trip to Seattle since we had never visited that city except as a way-point through the airport on our way somewhere else. We took in all the sights a tourist could want: the Space Needle, a harbor cruise, Pike Place Market, a Wine & Waterfalls tour to Woodinville, museums, the aquarium, and many fine meals. There is so much to do in this city.
What I didn't expect was the enjoyable hours we spent at the Chihuly Garden and Glass right under the Space Needle. I was familiar with Dale Chihuly's work since it is featured on the Mendota Wall in the Kohl Center at UW-Madison.
The tour begins in a room that shows the early objects that influenced Mr. Chihuly and showcases just a few of his many collections with Native American blankets and baskets.
The remaining rooms highlight dramatic displays of glass.
And then the gardens are a true inspiration of color, plant combinations, and glass shapes.
Even the gift shop was inspirational and an easy place to get carried away with all the wonderful items. Luckily I had no more room in my suitcase.
Scene from the Keukenhof Gardens in the Netherlands.
There is still time to order, receive and plant bulbs for next spring. I doubt that how your garden looks next April or May is on your mind as the leaves begin to change color and start dropping. However, if you take a few moments now there will be a reward next year.
It is time to bring in your houseplants from their summer vacation outdoors. This includes any tender plants that you plan to overwinter inside. Many of our houseplants and tender perennials are from the tropics and get stressed when nighttime temperatures dip lower than 50°. I used to scramble the night of the first killing frost to bring these plants inside. It was stressful both for me and my plants.
I now start moving houseplants and tender perennials to shadier spots in the garden around the beginning to mid-September. This gives them time to acclimate to the lower light conditions in our homes.
Those of you who know me well know that I am a lover of shoes (and boots). I believe a proper shoe or boot completes an outfit. As I am getting summer stuff put away and pulling out things for the next season I discovered that I have accumulated quite a garden boot collection.
We once had a three-season porch that overlooked a pond and my backyard gardens. It was furnished with typical rattan porch furniture. We never used it. Why? I would guess we weren’t comfortable.
I refurnished the room with cushy sofas, chairs, and a small table for meals. Outside I added a Pagoda Dogwood and Japanese Maple (both small understory trees growing about 8-10 feet) that provided screening from our neighbors. It made all the difference and we enjoyed the room and used it frequently. Can a similar redo of a garden increase the use of an outdoor room?
Now our screened porch is a screen house set right in the middle of the gardens.
I had visions of a sea of blue after my daffodil’s foliage melted away. Earlier in the growing season I lost a row of Swiss Chard. I put bird netting around that raised bed and the chard is recovering. But my Baptisia looks like a lost cause. A small rabbit has been sighted near the garden. Maybe this bunny thought Baptisia is tasty since it is a member of the pea family. So much for “tolerates rabbits” advertised with this plant.
Left to right: Baptisia australis, what remains of my plant after the bunny, and new cultivar 'Solar Flare'.
My garden fence was built to deter deer from ravishing my vegetables. The fencing is not made to turn away a small bunny and there are gaps under the gates. After being on this property for 15 seasons, this is the first rabbit. The wolves, coyotes, fox, and eagles may be credited for the lack of rabbits; that is until now.
Baptisia australis, common name False Indigo, is a native plant to the eastern U.S. In addition to being advertised as tolerant of rabbits the plant is unappealing to deer, drought resistant, and tolerate of poor soils. I thought it perfect for my garden since it likes full sun to part shade (my garden receives about 6 hours per day) and would provide some color between the spring ephemerals and the summer bulbs that grow alongside my raised beds. At 3-4 feet tall, it would stand out, just what I wanted.
Baptisia australis was named Perennial of the Year in 2010 by the Perennial Plant Association. It seems appropriate because this plant is hardy in USDA zones 3 to 9, has multi-season interest, is tough, and is low maintenance. According to the Missouri Botanical Garden Plant Finder: “Over time, plants develop slowly expanding clumps with deep and extensive root systems, and should not be disturbed once established. Plants take on more of a shrubby appearance and tend to open up after bloom. Trimming or shearing foliage after bloom helps maintain rounded plant appearance and obviates a possible need for staking, but eliminates the developing seed pods which are so attractive.”
In addition to this native, there are now new cultivars that come in yellow, pink, violet-blue, and creamy vanilla. Baptisia attracts butterflies with its flowering for 3-4 weeks in June. Both its blooms and dried seed pods can be used in floral arrangements. The common name of False Indigo refers to the use of this plant by early Americans as a substitute, albeit an inferior one, for true indigo in making blue dyes. I originally thought that the Latin "australis" was odd for a native North American plant and found out that it means "southern". It can also refer to Australia.
I’m putting up netting around the Baptisia and hoping for the best. Maybe next year I’ll get some blooms? Or maybe it's time for another trip to the garden center?
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